By Richard Fausset
1:51 PM PST, January 23, 2013
MEXICO CITY-- In a surprise 3-2 ruling Wednesday, the Mexican Supreme Court ordered the immediate release of Florence Cassez, a French citizen serving a 60-year prison sentence here after being convicted of involvement in a Mexican kidnapping ring.
Cassez, 38, was arrested in 2005 along with her boyfriend, who authorities said was the head of a kidnapping group called the Zodiacs. Although she lived in a compound where victims were held, Cassez asserted that she was innocent. Her case was complicated by a number of irregularities on the part of Mexican authorities, including a staged replay of her arrest in front of television cameras.
The justices who ruled in favor of Cassez's release did not discuss innocence or guilt; rather, they noted that the poor handling of her arrest amounted to a violation of her rights.
Her imprisonment has been a point of contention between France and Mexico. French officials decried the sloppy administration of Mexican justice, but many Mexicans fed up with the lawlessness in their country thought her sentence was appropriate.
In a TV interview shortly after the ruling, one of the kidnapping gang’s victims, Ezequiel Elizalde, slammed the ruling and advised Mexicans to arm themselves against criminal gangs, since the courts, in his opinion, were not on the side of ordinary people.
Agustin Acosta, an attorney for Cassez, said he expected her to be freed from prison by Wednesday evening. He said she planned to return to France.
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